This section provides Bible stories with the theme of joy, along with questions that can be used as a guide for family discussions. Choose one story that is appropriate for your child. Before reading aloud, take a few minutes to review the story. If the Bible passage is too complex for your child, paraphrase the story yourself or use the summary provided under “key concepts.
Read Acts 8:26-40.
An angel of the Lord told Philip that he was to go on the road south of Jerusalem, toward Gaza. Philip was obedient and he went. Along the way he came across a man in a chariot who was reading the book of Isaiah. God’s Spirit instructed Philip to stay near the man’s chariot. The man who was travelling was an important official from the country of Ethiopia. When Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading, the Ethiopian said, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?” and he invited Philip to come up and sit with him (Acts 8:31). Philip explained what the book of Isaiah meant and told the Ethiopian the good news about Jesus (Acts 8:34).
The good news Philip explained is that, because of Jesus, our sins can be forgiven and we can have eternal life in heaven with Him. (For a more detailed explanation of what salvation means, see the parable of the lost sheep in the Bible stories section of the lesson on forgiveness.) As soon as the Ethiopian heard the good news, he wanted to become a follower of Jesus and be baptized. After Philip baptized the Ethiopian, the Bible says the man went on his way rejoicing! Knowing that we are God’s children and our sins are forgiven, and that someday we will go to heaven to be with God, is a very good reason to be joyful!
“In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.’ ”
“For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Read Luke 15:8-10 and Psalm 32:1-5, 11.
Jesus told a story of a woman who had ten silver coins. When the woman lost one of the ten coins she lit a lamp, swept the entire house and searched diligently until she found the lost coin. Upon finding it, she called friends and neighbours to celebrate with her. Jesus said, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
This story was told to teach people how much joy there is in heaven when one person asks God to forgive their sins. As much as sin causes God pain (Genesis 6:5-6), repentance brings Him joy. Not only does repentance make God happy, it also brings a great sense of freedom to the person who repents. In Psalm 32, David talks about how awful he felt when he was quiet about his sin and what great relief he felt when he confessed his sin.
“The Lord saw how great man’s wickeness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.”
Read Luke 15:11-31. If your child has heard the story of the prodigal son many times, see the alternative version below.
Jesus told a story about a son who wanted his share of the family property so he could go and live on his own. This son thought that he would be happier living away from home and doing his own thing. The Bible tells us that he went to a foreign country and spent his money on wild living. Eventually, when he ran out of money, he had to get a job feeding pigs. He ended up being so hungry that he wished he could eat the pigs’ food. He began to think that living at home might not be so bad after all. At last, he did return home. He humbly apologized and said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:21). His father welcomed him with hugs and kisses and had a big feast.
Jesus told this story to illustrate how much God loves people and how readily He forgives those who confess their wrongdoing. The life lesson we can learn from this story is that as long as we go looking for joy and satisfaction anywhere other than God, we will never be satisfied.
There was once a little boy who went to the fair with his family. At first he was very excited. But as the day wore on, he became more and more unhappy with the way his parents were “controlling” how the family spent their money at the fair. In anger, he asked if he could have all the money they planned to spend on him that day. He wanted to hold it and decide when and how to spend it.
Once his parents had given him the money, the boy he ran off to spend it as he wished. He gorged himself on mini-donuts and went on lots of rides. Just as his money ran out, he started to feel ill. Suddenly he felt very alone and scared. The fair wasn’t fun at all with no family around and no more money to spend. Finally, a gruff midway worker offered him a job cleaning up the vomit on one of the rides and picking up garbage.* At this point, the boy decided that spending the remainder of the day with his parents, even though he would have no more treats or rides, would be far better than working on the midway. He searched and searched until he found his mother and father. They were overjoyed to see him. Can you guess how they celebrated his return?
* This may sound harsh and gross, but feeding pigs was the worst of jobs in Bible times.
“But may all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; may those who love Your salvation always say, ‘Let God be exalted!‘ ”
“Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”
“As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obyed My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
1 Peter 1:8-9
“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
Read Acts 16:16-34.
In Paul’s time, there was a slave girl who had a spirit in her which allowed her to predict the future. Her special ability to “tell fortunes” made a lot of money for her owners. For many days this girl followed Paul and Silas and called out, “These men are servants of the Most High God” (Acts 16:17). Paul was bothered by this and finally said, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to come out of her!” (Acts 16:18). Immediately the spirit left the girl!
The owners of the slave girl where angry when they saw that they would no longer be able to make money from her fortune-telling. They took Paul and Silas to their community judges and accused them of causing trouble. As a result, Paul and Silas were severely beaten and put in prison.
Later that night, when Paul and Silas were singing and praising God, an earthquake came and shook the prison, allowing the prisoners to escape. The jailer was so upset, he was about to kill himself. But Paul and Silas stopped him and told him that none of the prisoners had run away. The jailer was so impressed with Paul and Silas that he decided to become a follower of Jesus too, and asked them what he needed to do to be saved. Paul and Silas told him that he needed to believe in the Lord Jesus. The jailer took them to his own home and Paul and Silas told the jailer’s whole family about Jesus. The Bible tells us that the jailer was “filled with joy” because he and his whole family had come to believe in God (Acts 16:34).
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Read John 15:4-13, 16-17, and Galatians 5:22-23.
Just as a branch needs to stay connected to the tree trunk or vine in order to grow leaves and bear fruit, God tells us to “remain in Him” so that we can “bear fruit.” By “fruit,” the Bible means that others will be able to tell that we have God’s Spirit living in us because of the things we say and do. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The Bible tells us we can “remain” in God by obeying His commands. When we obey God’s commands, His love will be in us and we will experience joy!
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Read Mark 15:16-32, Hebrews 12:1-2 and 1 Peter 1:3-9.
When Jesus died on the cross it was a very difficult thing to do. It was very painful to have people beat Him, spit on Him and leave Him to die, hanging on a cross. The Bible tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus” or to look at Jesus as an example when life gets hard.
All athletes experience pain at the end of a race. If a runner focuses on the finish line, it makes it easier to endure the pain of the extreme physical exertion they are experiencing. The “joy” that helped Jesus die on the cross was knowing that His death would allow everyone to experience forgiveness for their sins so that we all can have a close friendship with God.
At times, there may be other children who make fun of you for choosing to follow Jesus and do what is right. These are the times that you can remember that Jesus had people hurt Him too. He helps us feel joyful when things are hard by giving us His Holy Spirit.